Archive for the ‘ Web Services ’ Category

Xcelsius Connectivity – FlyNet Services

This is a part of a mini series on the data connectivity aspects of Crystal Xcelsius dashboard tool, part of SAP BusinessObjects.

Xcelsius dashboards are Shockwave (SWF) files providing rich user interactions and visualizations. The product is a special RAD tool on top of Adobe Flash which focuses exclusively on building dashboards. It has a set of key dashboard visualization widgets including charts, graphs, trends, signals, gauges etc. It is extensible through Adobe Flex.

Xcelsius dashboards can be deployed in various manners and has several usage scenarios with typically both individual and large groups of consumers for a particular dashboard. One of the most important areas is the data connectivity features of the product.

This mini series talks in some detail about various connectivity mechanisms. Here I will talk about Flynet Services, a third party component which comes free as an express edition along with Xcelsius Engage and Enterprise licensed media.

Flynet, is simply a .NET web services generator, (WSDL + ASMX) which in usual circumstances is not a popular skill set among dashboard designers. WSDL, Web Services Description Language is an xml format for the interoperability of functionality provided by distributed services. Xcelsius dashboards can communicate to and fro with data stores through the web service interface. One can write custom code for communicating between the Xcelsius engine and the data stores using .NET, Java, PHP, etc but it requires dedicated developer skills.

Flynet services provide a handy tool to automatically generate web services code for deployment to a web server, usually Microsoft IIS (but can be deployed on an apache web server as well).

If you have already purchased Xcelsius Engage or Enterprise, the Flynet setup will be in the folder <Xcelsius Install Path>\AddOns\Flynet or <Xcelsius Install Path>\Connectivity\FlyNet

After installing FlyNet WebService Genrator and IIS..

Enter the license both in Xcelsius (Help->Update License Key) and FlyNet Web Services Generator (Help-> Enter New Product Key).

However,
If you enter an Xcelsius Enterprise License, you will get this message.
Enterprise License Issue

Make sure you have the Crystal Xcelsius Engage Server License. This particular Xcelsius version connects directly with data sources.

The Enterprise license only works for data connectivity with BusinessObjects enterprise and not diectly with live data sources.

The FlyNet Generator has a catch. It can only allow for as many ‘analytics’ updates as the number of CAL license available. i.e for a 10-CAL Engage Server license, Flynet servics will randomly update only 10 analytic widgets (copmonents) at one deployment. Therefore, it is not a viable solution for dashboards requiring data conectivity with more analytic widgets.

If this doesn’t suffice, you have the options of the Adobe LifeCycle Data Services (LCDS) or manual coding of webservices…

FlyNet WS Generator is a simple three tab and thus three step tool.

1. Web Service

Web Services

Enter a name, preferrably without spaces (since certain webservers dont deal with white spaces in URLs very well), description and a folder location where you want your generated web services to be placed. If you are planning to use IIS and want to deploy the web services using FlyNet, make sure the folder is under the right security domain in the production system. Otherwise, you can generate the web service to any folder and then manually deploy it as a web app in IIS by unchecking the option: “Register Web Service with IIS”

If you have a corporate web service deployment policy and/or you want to better organize your deployed webservices, you can use the advanced feature and determine a .NET namespace for your generated webservice code and also the WS namespace URL.

Advanced Setting_WebServices

Once you have filled up this basic information, you can move to the next teb: “Data Source Connection”

2. Data Source Connection

This is where the beauty of this utility lies. You just have to define your query in SQL (with sligth variations) and you get yourself a generated webservice.

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Click on New Data Source to define either an OLE DB or an ODBC connection. FlyNet provides data adapters for numerous data sources inlcuding RDMBS, OLAP cubes and even directly from excel files. However, it is kind of strange to use web services to connect to excel using FlyNet, Xcelsius provides XML mapping via excel already!

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You can define the connection string either through the wizard or directly using the Advanced Button. Once completed, you can test your connection string and view the summary.

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3. Queries:

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Best way to define the queries is using the query wizard. The reason is that FlyNet for unkown reasons didnt write an ANSI SQL-92 or 2000 parser. For aggregates, stored procedures and case statements, there are special provisions.

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For ‘Aggregate Values’, place ~ before and after the alias. For ‘Case Statements’, enclose in parantheses, for stored procedures, use the EXEC keyword.

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Generate Web Service

Thats it! Generate the Web Service once you are done with your queries. Each query will lead to a new variable in Xcelsius. Ill come to that later.

The utility then generates a wsdl file, associated asmx and the web.config files for usage. Pity it doesnot reveal the c# code…

If you selected “Register Web Service  with IIS”, you will get a dialog asking you to view your webservice. That will open the URL in your browser.

Otherwise you can deploy the three files in IIS or Apache manually.

You can test your webservice by using the “Invoke” button. You should see the generated XML file with the relevant data in it. If things go wrong, the webservice will spit errors within the data elements of the xml.

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Xcelsius

Now lets hook up the Xcelsius dashboard with the web service.

Goto the ‘Data Manager’ accessible from the toolbar. Click on Add->Add a Web Service Connection.

Enter the WSDL URL and click Import. This will import all the parameters into Xcelsius for linking purposes.

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Notice each query you defined in FlyNet is converted to a method here. Thsi way you can build multiple input and output parameters. It also helps in running parallel queries. Designing the distribution of data to input and fetch using a multiple of queries is a pure design desicion and requires a lot of factors including the runtime performance, database performance and dashboard update frequency.

You can now link the webservice with the embedded Excel model by linking cells to parameters.

Once you are done with this, you can design your dashboard interface the usual way, linking cells with various widgets. Since these cells are now linked up with webservices parameters, your dashboards will be dynamically changing based on the source data!

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